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EU: ‘Energy Efficiency First’

Vast differences exist among EU countries in terms of renewable energy consumption – and the UK has one of the lowest rates, according to the European Commission’s Second Report on the State of the Energy Union.

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The best performing country is Sweden – renewables make up more than 54% of its energy source. Finland is second, with 40%. The UK gets less than 10% of its energy from renewables – just 8.2%. It comes in at 24th out of 28.

In addition the UK is one of 11 member states which has failed to hit the target of 10% of energy production being connected to other member states. With Bulgaria, Cyprus, Spain, Germany, Ireland, France, land, Portugal, Romania and Italy, it’s being urged to “continue their efforts” to improve the set up. The minimum target is set to be increased to 15% by 2030.

The CE of Renewable Energy Association Dr Nina Skorupska told The Independent she’s anxious progress is stalling and believes that recent policy changes have negatively impacted on renewable growth since 2014.While we are likely to meet and even overshoot on power, much more progress needs to be made on transport and heat….The Government’s recent reform of the Renewable Heat Incentive has stilted the growth of much of the biomass sector, which was the technology that was previously deploying the majority of the heat under the scheme.”

Indeed the UK is one of just three EU states to have increased its energy dependency on imports over the last decade. It, along with Denmark and Poland, have been affected by “the decline of indigenous fossil fuel production”.

However confidence remains with EC vice-president for Energy Union Maroš Šefčovič stating that, “The EU as a whole has continued to make good progress on delivering the Energy Union objectives, in particular on the 2020 energy and climate targets. It has already achieved its 2020 final energy consumption target. The same is true for greenhouse gas emissions.”

During 1990 – 2015 the EU’s GDP grew by 50% -but emissions decreased – supporting arguments that sustainable growth is more than just an ideal.

One of the Energy Union’s key aims is to better integrate markets and make members less reliant on fossil fuel imports – from the likes of Russia.  ‘Energy Efficiency First’ is its version of ‘America First’. The EU Commission believes achieving the 2030 target will create 400,000 new jobs, save €70 billion in fossil fuel imports and reduce health care costs by more than €8 billion per year.

The Energy Union is about more than energy and climate alone,” says Šefčovič . “It is about accelerating the fundamental modernisation of Europe’s entire economy, making it low-carbon, energy and resource efficient, in a socially fair manner. Now that a large part of the relevant legislative proposals are on the table, 2017 should be the year of implementation.”

It’s a far cry from what’s happening in the United States. As The Guardian put it President Trump’s energy policy “Stops all the clocks, puts the technological revolution on hold” as he seeks to “unleash” America’s energy industry; yet the EC’s Climate Action and Energy Commissioner Miguel Arias Canete holds to a fundamental belief that, “There is no alternative. And the facts speak for themselves: renewable energy is now cost-competitive and sometimes cheaper than fossil fuels, employs over one million people in Europe, attracts more investments than many other sectors, and has reduced our fossil fuels imports bill by €16bn. Now, efforts will need to be sustained as Europe works with its partners to lead the global race to a more sustainable, competitive economy.”